- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

Eleven years ago this past Friday, a flashy, long-haired 18-year-old rookie right wing from Kladno, Czechoslovakia, played in his first NHL game for the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The opponent that night at Capital Centre was the Washington Capitals. Some 1,079 points and one trade later, Jaromir Jagr made his Caps debut last night at MCI Center.
Jagr didn't score in that 1990 game, but he did last night, grabbing a loose puck in front of New Jersey's net and jamming the puck past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur at 6:44 of the second period to give the Caps a 3-1 lead.
The goal was the 440th of Jagr's magnificent career and came on just his second shot in a Washington uniform after Adam Oates had won a faceoff in the left circle and Dainius Zubrus kept the puck alive. The smiling Jagr whipped off his right glove, kissed two fingers and raised them skyward.
"I have a lot of goals in the league, but I was kind of nervous before the game, and I was kind of shaky in the first period," Jagr said after the 6-1 victory. "It's always nice to score a goal. Then you can relax and play your game. I was in the right place, and Zuby made a nice play."
Brodeur foiled Jagr on a partial breakaway late in the period, but Washington still raised its advantage over the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions to 4-1 on that shift as Sergei Gonchar rammed home the puck, with Jagr and Oates getting assists.
"Jaromir's presence makes you feel confident," said Caps coach Ron Wilson, who replaced Andrei Nikolshin with 2000-01 NHL assists king Adam Oates between Jagr and Zubrus after the plodding first period. "We kind of adjusted on the fly, and we'll be continuing to experiment until we find the right [combinations]. Jaromir played very well. Once we put Oatsie in the middle between Zuby and Jags, he settled down and started to see the puck a little bit more. He made some great plays."
Along with longtime Washington standouts Peter Bondra and Olie Kolzig, Jagr received the loudest cheers when the team was introduced just before the opening faceoff. Jagr's first shift, 30 seconds into the game, was inconsequential, but 4:48 into the action, he had Brodeur scrambling to thwart him at the right post. Jagr played 6:41 of the first period, the most by a forward on either team, even though Washington didn't have a power play.
The five-time scoring champion acquired July 11 in a deal for three prospects largely because the Penguins couldn't afford himbrings amazing offensive skills to a team long known for a hard-working, defensive style.
Washington finished in the top 10 in goals just twice during Jagr's first 11 seasons. Among active players, only Jagr's former teammate, Mario Lemieux (1.992 points per game), and Eric Lindros of the New York Rangers (1.356) have averaged more points than Jagr's 1.339.
The Caps know all too well what Jagr can do to an enemy defense. He had 25 goals and 41 assists in 51 regular-season games against Washington and was a key figure in the Penguins' six victories in seven playoff series with the Caps.
All of Jagr's new teammates combined for seven 30-goal seasons (six by Bondra, one by Trevor Linden) during the past eight years. Jagr reached that level every year.
"Our signature has always been defense, great effort," said Bondra, whose 305 goals the past eight seasons were second in the NHL to Jagr's 346. "We have to keep working hard, but we're lucky to have a player like Jaromir. Hopefully, his presence will create more opportunities for the rest of us.
"All those years watching Pittsburgh's power play, you imagine what it would be like to play with a guy like Jaromir and now we have him."

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